Pumpkin Goop

Tonight Mike and I carved pumpkins. We do it every year. You know me, I love a good holiday tradition.

We plopped a huge blob of pumpkin goop onto the tray of Ellie’s high chair. We watched her push it around and squeeze it between her fingers and smear it on her face. She loved it. She was amazed.

Mike told her all about the importance of seeds and how amazing it is that so much life can come from just one tiny seed. And how one day she will help him plant seeds.

Carving pumpkins – the seed has been planted for another holiday tradition!

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The more things change, the more they change.

Since we started selling our jams and jellies several years ago we have prided ourselves on kickin’ out old school jams without commercial pectin. Sure-Jell and similiar products make jamming easy but they also give you a jam that is too thick and overly sweet.

For example, the Sure-Jell strawberry jam recipe calls for 5 cups of berries and 7(!!) cups of sugar. Yikes. When we make strawberry jam we do a 2(ish):1 ratio – 5lbs berries to 2lbs sugar. We like to make the fruit the star of our jams, not the sugar.

How can we do that? We add lemon for natural pectin and we cook the fruit down. Way down. Like hours of stirring on the stove top. Our jams usually require 1-2.5 hours of cook time (with near constant stirring) depending on the natural pectin in the fruit we’re jamming. And then there is the time spent preparing the fruit and canning equipment and the actual processing time.

So, where am I going with all this? Remember 5 months ago I had a baby?

Recently, we occasionally started using flex pectin when jammin’ low pectin fruits. We can keep our jam to sugar ratio the same but by adding a little flex pectin we can speed up the time it takes the jam to set.

A couple of weeks ago one of our favorite customers seemed a bit dismayed when she noticed pectin on the list of ingredients in one of our jams. She mentioned that she had been telling a friend how much she liked our jams and how she loved we didn’t use pectin. It made me sad to hear her disappointment. We certainly don’t want to disappoint anyone!

But sometimes in life you make sacrifices.

After working an 8 hour day I’m much more interested in spending time with baby girl than I am with standing over the stove for 3 hours.

One day Ellie will be able to help me make jam and just thinking about that makes me tear up. Sharing something I love and teaching her the importance of saving the season is something I am looking forward to. But in the meantime, we’ll make this tiny sacrifice.

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Buried Treasure

There is a lot of old stuff around here. A lot. We keep crossing our fingers for that million dollar item buried among the junk. So far, no dice. But Mike started tackling one of the older buildings this week so hopes were high for buried treasure.

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I don’t really know the history of this building. I’m not sure when it was built or what it was used for.  It was always full of junk when I was a kid and then the second floor collapsed so it became totally off limits to us kids. I was pretty stoked to see what Mike would dig out. And my fingers were crossed for that million dollar item!

Check out this GORGEOUS door! He found several doors but we’re not sure if they’re original to the house. If Mike can restore this it will most certainly end up as our front door. It’s beautiful. 20140807_111248

I love old wash tubs and basins. Mike found several! I’ll wash these up and then the next big party they’ll be filled with ice and beer!

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Old sewing machines are a dime a dozen and this one was in really bad shape so I wasn’t too excited by this find.

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But then we noticed a small drawer on the left hand side that was locked! This could be it!

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Nope. Just an old, dirty, balled up rag. Damn it!

Here is a view from inside the building. Chock full of dust, dirt, and wood. Lots of wooden things inside this building – including several big rolls of old school wooden snow fence (bottom left in this photo). In all reality that fence is most likely the million dollar item from this building. It’s in great shape and there is enough to enclose the whole garden. Score!

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There was one item I knew was in this building that I remember from my childhood – Uncle Stu’s Datsun. I vaguely remember opening the doors and pretending to drive the car. And I think my brothers and cousins may have smoked cigarettes in there (Not me. I was a perfect angel). 

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It needs a little work.

Welp, we didn’t find wads of cash, million dollar antiques, or buried treasure. But we do have a helluva burn pile for this weekend and some fence for the garden. I’ll take what I can get.

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What came first – the chicken or the health department?

Eggs are the perfect food and they come in nature’s perfect package. They don’t need to be washed or refrigerated. You can collect fresh eggs and leave them unwashed on your counter and they’re still perfect. Don’t believe me? Refer to Mother Earth News.

I love eggs. They are my very favorite food. I would have some form of dippy eggs for my last meal. I love raising chickens and I love our fresh eggs. And I know our friends and customers love our eggs too.

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Which brings me to selling eggs at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market. Or in our case, the fact that we are no longer able to sell them.

We’re sorry friends but increased licensing and equipment requirements have made it cost prohibitive for us to bring our eggs to market. We’re totally bummed out for a number of reasons and one big one is that we know there is a need for our eggs at the market; we sell out every week. We have received some great compliments and I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to many of you about our flock.

Our misfit flock of layers and turkey hens is small. We bring anywhere from 12-15 dozen eggs to market each week. We’re small potatoes. 🙂

The City of Kent Health Department requires a mobile food license in order to sell eggs at market. The license costs $200 per season and is purchased through the Portage County Health Department.

Currently we sell our eggs out of a large cooler with ice packs. However, in order to have a mobile food license the county requires some kind of mechanical refrigeration to sell eggs.

While I do not begrudge the rules set forth by the City of Kent and Portage County these requirements are just too costly for us at this time and we will no longer be bringing our eggs to market.

If you follow the blog you know we just had a baby girl about two months ago.

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We have many years to acquire the equipment that is required and to grow our flock for the increased egg production that would make these costs worth it. But our baby girl is only going to be a baby once.

This season we’re sticking with our delicious and totally local jams, jellies, and spreads, handmade hypertufa planters, and produce from our gardens.

We’re still happy to sell our eggs at the farm or to work out other arrangements so if you’re interested please contact us at bartongardens@gmail.com or chat with us Saturday mornings at the market.

 

 

 

 

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Strawberries!!

THE STRAWBERRIES ARE HERE!

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Yesterday Ellie and I ran up to Walnut Drive Gardens and snagged 8 quarts of pre-picked berries.  Pre-picked you ask. What the heck? Yea, well a one-month old makes the rules these days and she wasn’t too interested in picking berries. The plan is to hit the patch with Ellie in the sling later this week with Diane.

In the meantime pre-picked will do in a pinch. And thanks to our friend Mary for the big bundle of rhubarb. The first jam of the season – Strawberry Rhubarb!

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I macerated the 1 1/2 lbs. of rhubarb with some sugar overnight so it would soften up and get juicy. I added the rhubarb to 3lbs of berries and a little more sugar along with the juice and zest of a lemon (natural pectin!). Then I put Ellie in the sling and we got to jammin’.

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Mmm. Strawberry rhubarb is a classic combination for good reason – not only are they the first two fruits to come into season but it is a delicious pairing!

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Stop at see us this weekend at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market for some of the first jam of the season!

 

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Don’t you, forget about me….

Hello! Remember me?

I hope you haven’t forgotten about us or the Haymaker Farmers’ market!

The good news – the outdoor market season begins THIS weekend. We’re back under the bridge on Franklin Street from 9am-1pm starting 5/17 and running through late October.

The better news – we’ll have brand new hypertufas, both planted and empty, for sale. We’ll also have some jams and plenty of eggs.

The BEST news –  you haven’t heard from me because my husband and I recently welcomed a new chick to the farm. Our daughter Ellie! She showed up two weeks early and has been taking up the majority of my time hence the silence here on the blog. We’re slowly but surely getting our groove back and hopefully I’ll be able to post more about jam making, gardening, chicken tending, and turkey breeding.

In the meantime I am just sittin’ back and staring in wonder at this new little life we have here on the farm. I know that everyone says their kid is the best and brightest and most beautiful and most amazing. But in this case it’s all true. It’s absolutely true.

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See you Saturday under the bridge!

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Our chicken coop is very old. My great grandparents used it. My grandparents used it. And now we’re using it. While the interior has changed to suit the needs of our flock the outside has remained pretty much the same.

Photographic evidence – Great Grandpa Roy in front of the coop (1930s maybe).

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 This one was taken a few months ago – see how little has changed?

011Years and years and years of Northeastern Ohio weather have really done a number on the coop. We have plans to paint and replace windows and all that jazz but an immediate job arose the other day after some heavy winds – the coop needed a new door.

Remember the other day I mentioned that on a recent Sunday Funday Mike installed a new shop door? Well, the old door was just laying around so eureka! Perfect for the coop!

First things first – remove the old door. The chickens enjoyed the show. I hope you will notice that the handle is an old thread spindle. My grandpa like to reduce, reuse, and recycle as well.

001_OldCoopDoorRemovalNext, hold up the new (but also super old) door and make some pencil markings about how/where to hang. Also, put up a support so the door can be hung with confidence.

010_newdoorandsupportMike held the door while I screwed in the hinges and the door fit like a champ! Now, we just needed a way to secure it.

The old door jam from the shop still had the deadbolt fixin’s so we decided to reuse those. The jam already made it up to the fire pit and more bad news – loads of paint and age made removing the bolt pretty difficult. That and the flat head screws that were used.

To quote Mike, “Flatheads are f&%*ing worthless. Worthless!”

005_pryinglockSo worthless and difficult to remove in fact that Mike busted it with his pry bar. Oops.

But he pried it off anyways and we went back to the shop so he could drill some new holes into the part where the bolt goes.

006_DrillingOutLockOnce we had new holes he just screwed the plate onto the door jam and voilà!

007_doorlockWhy is the lock on the outside? We put the door on this way so that it opens to the left and when the wind blows like hell it will push the door shut instead of swinging it open – like the old door.

Only problem – you can’t close the door all the way while you’re inside the coop or you’ll totally lock yourself in there. Uh oh.

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The new door is great. It’s much more sturdy and secure and it lets a bit more light into the coop. All good things.

And lastly, it is with a very heavy heart that I have to share some bad news with you – Little Enos, our first turkey poult, died. I just posted a picture of her on our Facebook page showing she had improved. She was finally eating and drinking more on her own and walking around and peeping.

I checked on her after work and she was looking good. When I looked in again just before dinner she was gone. I called Mike in and he wrapped her up and we buried her in the big bed of Lily of the Valley. I only cried a little.

We have several more eggs in the incubator and hopefully we’ll get some good, strong poults this time around.

RIP Little Enos

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Old Timey Tuesday: The what goes around comes around edition

This photograph was taken at some point in the early 1980s at a magical place from my childhood – Pymatuning Deer Park.

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My maternal grandparents used to take us every year and I have a slew of memories from those trips. There was an old jail cell and an “abandoned” town you could play in. A kiddie train that would take you around the park. Pony rides. An old fort to climb around on. And the petting zoo was the best! You could bottle feed goats for Pete’s sakes. It was amazing! I also fed crackers to a parrot once and it bit off my thumb nail. Polly did NOT want a cracker. But man, those were good times.

And after deer park we’d hit the Linesville Hatchery to check out the baby fish and the super sweet indoor fish tank. And after that – the crown jewel of childhood excursions – feeding stale bread to the carp at the Pymatuning spillway.

Early 1990s – mom, my youngest brother Nick and Gma Iris feeding the carp

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Have you ever been there? It is insane. It was such a place of awe when I was a kid. And I have been back as an adult and it is still totally awesome. Weird and gross and smelly but totally awesome. Check out this video. Click here.

Anyways, all this to say that I still enjoy petting zoos and feeding goats and throwing stale bread at carp. And I cannot wait to take my own kid on these adventures.

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Here comes Peter Cottontail. Hoppin’ down the bunny trail….

I am a huge sucker for family traditions. They are like my favorite thing in the world. There is something so comforting about the little things we do each year to celebrate holidays. I blame this on my grandpa. He was also a sucker for a good tradition.

Case in point – coloring Easter eggs.

002These are the very mugs my grandpa used to use with us when we were kids. I found these when Mike was ripping out the old shelves in the basement. As soon as I saw these chipped and cracked old mugs I started crying. Mike looked at me like I was nuts. Like, “What the hell is wrong with this girl crying over old mugs?”

Then I explained that they were the mugs we always used to color Easter eggs and he said, “Well we better keep them then!” So we did. And tonight we colored Easter eggs.

I know there are lots of natural ways to color eggs. Everything from beets to onion skins to grape juice. But for me, nothin’ says Easter like a 99 cent Paas egg dying kit. That is what grandpa always used.

While Mike and his dad worked on installing the new toilet upstairs I prepped the egg dying station.

001I had boiled a dozen eggs the night before. Two were used for the killer salade niçoise sandwiches we had for dinner that night and the other ten went into the fridge for dying.

Mike went fancy with a two-tone.

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And of course we used the little white pencil to write hidden messages!

004It was really fun standing over the mugs and using the little wire holders to turn the eggs so they dyed evenly. And it was fun to finally take them out of the dye and oooh and awww over the vibrant colors.

The end result of our Easter creativity.

005Thanks grandpa.

Oh, and don’t forget we’re back at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market this Saturday from 10am-1pm at the United Methodist Church. I’ll have jams and spreads including several jars from the batch of White Peach Straight Up I made earlier this week. And I’ll also have buttermilk biscuits and loads of eggs!

If you’re looking for some real Easter egg dying fun check out our little bantam eggs! I’ll have 3 or 4 dozen of that size.

Look at these little guys. So cute!

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Old Timey Tuesday: Apartment No. 5

I love our house. I love our property and the out buildings and the memories I have from my childhood. I love all the potential this old farm has. I just love living at this place. And while I’m sure Mike likes the house and the barn and my memories too if truth be told the real reason we bought the family farm is the shop.

Mike loooooooooves the shop.

I posted before that my great grandpa Roy owned a trucking company – Roy H. Royer and Sons – and my grandpa and Great Uncle Del drove for him. They hauled produce from local farms including Roy’s brother Carl’s farm just down the road. My great grandpa built the truck garage (aka Mike’s shop) in the 1940s. The four bays housed his trucks and the upstairs apartments housed the the drivers and their families. Basically the upper floor is an apartment building.

And one apartment in particular – apartment no. 5 – has a pretty rad history.

Apartment no. 5 is where my grandparents lived right after they were married. My Aunt Jackie was born while they lived in apartment no. 5. Check out this awesome photograph of my grandpa and Aunt Jackie enjoying a tea party in the living room.

014_gpateapartyMy grandparents later moved into the main house and lived in the upstairs – remember how our upstairs bathroom (still under construction) used to be an extra kitchen? That kitchen was added on when my grandparents moved into the farmhouse after my great grandpa passed away.

And later when my Aunt Jackie reached adulthood and needed to get the heck outta dodge she ventured out on her own…back to apartment no. 5.

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My folks were married in 1979. Guess where their first apartment was located? You got it. Apartment no. 5! I came along in 1980 and my brother in 1982 and we spent our early years in apartment no. 5.

Here’s my brother hangin’ on for dear life (or coppin’ a feel) while I pedaled us around on a tricycle.

016_meandkenny_apt5We were the last residents of apartment no. 5 and we moved out in the spring of 1984. So what’s it look like now? Well, it needs some work.

Looking in from the hallway

003_apartment5A better view of that main living area

001The kitchen area

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Spring of 1984 – it’s like time stopped up here

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Look – they even left some of my toys behind!

002_radiatorMike and I were up in the apartments recently checking for leaks in the roof.

012_checkingforleaksWell, he was looking for leaks. I was just cautiously making my way through the apartments – snapping photos, reminiscing, and wondering how the heck it got to be in such disrepair. I mean, I guess 30 years is a long time but sheesh. Mike says it’s because the roof leaked which caused the drop ceilings to fall down and make a mess. There is a lot of fallen ceiling bits laying around. But there is also a lot of other weird stuff.

Like this old bed

009_old bedAnd these awesome old sinks

011_oldsinkAnd old televisions and furniture

010_oldTVandchairAnd these garden baskets which will be handy this summer

008_basketandfairsignsWe have a lot of work ahead of us to bring this old space back to life. It’s not really a top priority right now but I do have dreams of a giant dance hall in my future.

006_hallwayOr if we didn’t want to fix it up it would certainly be a great spot to film a horror movie!

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